How to write a pitch.

It always seems daunting to sit and try to write a presentation or pitch.  Here are some ways to make the process a lot easier.

Start with the takeaway.  The takeaway is the one thing you want the audience to remember as a result of hearing your presentation.  That one thing has to be specific to your subject matter.  Your takeaway is not ”I want to hire that person”.  It is something that has to do with the material you presented.  Hopefully they remembered the takeaway because you packaged it so well (which I’ll get to in a minute) and that, in turn, will cause them to think well of you.

The takeaway should be something that is a benefit to the person or people you are presenting to.  What is a benefit? Anything that helps that person do their job better, save money, look stronger in their supervisor’s eyes, eliminate a problem area, market the product or service they provide better,  etc.  If you can address their issues, you will have a very attentive audience.

If you are having trouble isolating the takeaway, try this experiment. Write down what you think the takeaway is for your presentation.  Now ask yourself why that is important.  Write down the answer.  Now ask of that answer why you think it is important. Repeat the process. Eventually, if you do this 3 or 4 times you’ll end up with an answer that is a pure benefit for the audience.  You now have your takeaway.  It’s time to package that takeaway into a presentation.

The opening of you presentation should be about the takeaway. It could be a story that brings the takeaway to life, it could be a visualization (imagine what it would be like to achieve this or that. Today I’ll show you how that can be achieved.)  It could be a problem solution that the client said was their #1 problem.  But, it is always about the client and never about you.

The whole opening could run one or two minutes.  Yet, it is the most important part of your presentation because research shows the audience is most alert and remembers more from the opening than anything else.  Don’t waste your opening with a formal recitation of the agenda, or with an overview of you and your company.  No one cares.  Instead, get right to the story that carries the takeaway.  Another reason you don’t need to talk agenda is because coming out of the opening and going into the middle you’ll, in essence, give the agenda.  It works like this.  After I’ve established my takeaway I’m going to say something to the effect “now let’s look at how that premise works within your company.  We’ll look at X, Y and Z, and we’ll hear from a noted authority on what this takeaway will mean to your bottom line.  Now let’s get into the middle of the presentation.  And, I’ve brought the following people with me who are experts in this area.  There.  You have just given an agenda and introduced the team but in the context of the benefit for the client.  Much better

The middle is where we present the details of how the takeaway works. It’s a demonstration of sorts.  There could be facts and figures, research, testimonials, examples, background info, etc.  But, it is all supporting the takeaway that you established in the opening.

Now let’s get to the close.  The close has two pieces. The first piece is a brief summary of what you presented today in the context of the takeaway (Today I said we’d show you how this works and why, and we presented proof, testimonials, experts, etc).  You can see how this close should echo everything you said in the opening.  But, you are not done. We have delivered the summary but now we need to ask for an action step.  As a result of hearing this pitch, what do you want the audience to do?  This action step should be specific.  For example, you might say that “there were a number of questions raised about our point of view and we would like to come back with additional information next Tuesday. Would that work?”  Or, you might ask them to hire you.  Or you might ask them to review a leave behind of additional and dense information then meet next Tuesday to discuss.  Whatever you do, you need to initiate it.  Don’t assume the audience will take the action step.  You need to ask for it. (clients have told me in interviews that they consider the “ask” to be crucial.  It’s a sign you want the business.)

There. The pitch is done.  It’s focused. It addresses the client’s #1 problem with a unique solution.  It didn’t go off on side streets.  It was brief and powerful.  Congratulations!

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